Saratoga Payback by Stephen Dobyns

Saratoga Payback

Stephen Dobyns

Wry, entertaining, and adroitly written, Saratoga Payback is an immensely satisfying addition to Stephen Dobyns's popular mystery series.

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The latest installment in Stephen Dobyns's Charlie Bradshaw mysteries, Saratoga Payback follows the latest exploits of Saratoga Springs' most unusual and sardonic detective. 

Ever since the cops revoked his private investigator's license, Charlie Bradshaw has been adjusting to life as a regular senior citizen. But reading, sitting around the house, and making amateur home repairs is a far cry from his past life as Saratoga Springs' most successful everyman detective.

So when Charlie discovers the sprawled corpse of Saratoga Springs' biggest nuisance on his sidewalk, the ex-P.I. is torn. Should he risk asking questions of his own, knowing he could easily be prosecuted for doing P.I. work without a license? Or should he avoid the trouble and spend his twilight years in peace? Well, the case was practically delivered to his doorstep...

Saratoga Payback, the latest installment in Stephen Dobyns's critically praised Charlie Bradshaw Mysteries, follows Charlie as he toes the line between concerned private citizen and practiced private eye. As he begins to look into the murder of the town pest, Charlie also finds himself entangled in problem that is purely Saratogian--a mission to rescue an old acquaintance's kidnapped horse. Wry, entertaining, and adroitly written, Saratoga Payback is an immensely satisfying addition to Dobyns's popular mystery series.

Advance Galley Reviews

A good book with excellent plot line and beautiful characters.

A good book with excellent plot line and beautiful characters.

Mystery and intrigue..good read. Liked the characters and story flow. Entertaining read. Will read more by the author. Given ARC by First to Read.

This was a very fun book, not my usual type of books, but very fun nonetheless. Charlie's character made me laugh a lot, yet the mystery of the book did not leave my disappointed. I would go back and read some more of these for sure!

I was a bit sceptical at first as "Saratoga Payback" is not the type of book I usually choose but I'm trying to expand my repertoire so I decided to go for it. I'm glad I did. I can tell why Stephen Dobyns's books are so popular - this one was very well-written, humorous and it took me far away from real life for a while. Those are great qualities in a book! I'm going to try a few others in the series. Thanks to Penguin's First to Read for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Charlie Bradshaw, a defunct PI, wakes up in the middle of the night worried about the trash he forgot to put out. Visions of running behind the trash truck as the driver purposely speeds away propels him from his bed. But what he finds on his front walk, a dead man with his throat slashed, was far from what Charlie was expecting. As the weeks and months go by and with the police threatening jail if he meddles in the case, Charlie can't seem to help investigate. Especially once he learns that he, Charlie, is among the names on the killers list of victim. I really enjoyed reading how Charlie struggles agaisnt his own curiosity and fear. His endless curiosity keeps connecting the dots even when it seems as if he's just chasing shadows and annoying the heck out of everyone around him. It's also nice to see the main character as someone other than a young adult or buff vetern but a person in their sixties struggle with their limits but still able to save the day. I'd definitely recommend this book to others.

I read several of the Charlie Bradshaw Saratoga mysteries way back when and liked them a lot but somehow lost track of them. I wish I had read the intervening books as I had forgotten much of what I knew about many of the characters who appear to be staples in the series. Charlie is much older now, married with three stepdaughters. His ongoing meddling in police business, which I did remember, has ended with him losing his P.I. license and pistol permit. He is supposed to a regular retired senior citizen but a case lands in his driveway one night. One of his most obnoxious acquaintances is dead with a cut throat and a severed tongue. Since Charlie thinks that the victim, Mickey Martin, could only have been coming to see him he wants to know what's up. It appears that a serial murderer is on the loose, and Charlie may be a target. Saratoga Payback is very entertaining, if somewhat slow-paced until the nail-biting end. There is a lot of humor involving Charlie's trying to stay under the police radar and the ravages of age. I had not met his wife Janey before but there is one particularly hilarious passage in which she gives Charlie's nemesis on the force a memorable dressing down. Things really get serious before the end and Charlies fears the loss of not only his life but those of his family and friends. Since the series is set in Saratoga Springs, horses and a horse theft ring are also involved. I was thoroughly entertained and plan to get caught up on Charlie Bradshaw.

A fun mystery thriller. Charlie Bradshaw is an enjoyable character. The case is intriguing and the delivery is on point. A great read.

Old private detectives don't die, they just fail to...well, there's not much Charlie Bradshaw fails to do during his enforced retirement other than defy the instructions of the local authorities, with whom he once worked, after they revoke his PI license and expressly ban him from doing anything remotely like investigating a crime. They won't even let him get a license to carry a gun. Their biggest issue with Charlie isn't that he has stuck his nose in their cases in the past so much as the fact that in doing so he's made them look bad on a number of occasions. When an acquaintance asks him to deliver the ransom in a horse-napping case—the latest in a rash of such incidents—Charlie is reluctant, but he claims he isn't investigating anything. He's simply helping someone out, for a nice little payoff. Of course, old habits die hard and he can't help himself from going above and beyond, following and attempting to identify the extortionist who has executed stolen horses in the past and delivered their heads to owners who refused to pay. Similarly, when another figure from his past turns up murdered and mutilated on his front lawn, Charlie can't help but feel compelled to investigate. The dead man, Mickey Martin, a shady real estate agent and insurance broker best known for his offensive breath, was on his way to see Charlie, although the former detective has no idea why. He follows a trail of clues to other people who recently spoke to Martin. More murders occur, and Charlie worries that his off-the-books investigation is causing the killer to strike again. The police turn up an unusual kill list consisting of paper effigies of the recent and, presumably, intended victims, one of which looks like Charlie. Thus begins a race against time to figure out who is on a vendetta to kill Charlie and other people he knows. Except it's a slow race, not a horse race. Weeks, even months pass with no progress, until the killer re-emerges and Charlie's heart is once again pushed to its limits. This is Dobyns' eleventh Charlie Bradshaw novel, and the author has seen his protagonist into early albeit reluctant semi-retirement. Charlie is more or less happily married, has a teenage step-daughter who tolerates him and even helps out from time to time when he confronts technological challenges, and he's handy enough with tools that he can accomplish DIY projects around the family home, when he isn't being distracted by the overwhelming urge to solve a crime. However, in his own words, he's a professional Nosey Parker and a practiced meddler. He's intuitive and hunch-driven, more interested in process than in results, in questions than in answers, and the threat of being sent to jail for interfering in a criminal investigation isn't as big a deterrent as his nemesis, Lieutenant Hutchins of the Saratoga PD, would like. Though he shuns the symbolism of autumn with regards to his career and his life, he acknowledges that the highly modified shotgun he acquires via black market channels is meant to compensate for his growing sense of decrepitude. Dobyns has also published books of poetry and darker crime novels (such as Boy in the Water and The Burn Palace), but he has a penchant for these witty, off-kilter books (most recently: Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?) that showcase his literary chops and his mordant sense of humor. The Charlie Bradshaw books aren't precisely cozy mysteries—some of the more gruesome events take place off-screen, but they are gruesome all the same—but they are light-hearted and driven, as is Charlie, more by the process than the results.

I received this ARC in a Penguin First To Read Giveaway program....only in return for my own independent fair & honest review. Honestly, I gave up by chapter 3 on reading this book. I just couldn't get into it and actually found a bit too much on the dry humor. It's possible I would have a duffer opinion if I started with the first book of this series. The book was very noir in tone and plot rhythm and easy to follow. I just didn't find it interesting enough to keep with it. I was bored while reading it.

Started off too slowly to keep me interested. This probably would have been better if I had familiarity with the characters and the series. Will try going back to the first in the series.

I enjoyed reading my firsttoread copy of Saratoga Payback. This is my first time reading a Stephen Dobyn's Charlie Bradshaw Mysteries book. Former PI finds someone killed in his driveway and the mystery begins. I found the story captivating. Once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. Loved it! I will be definitely reading more of Stephen Dobyn's Charlie Bradshaw mysteries in my future.

This was my first time reading a Charlie Bradshaw mystery. Former private investigator Charlie Bradshaw is having a difficult time making the transition into forced retirement. He's feeling his age, but was not ready to retire. However, an altercation with the local police chief has resulted in his losing his license, along with his permit to carry a gun. What a guy to do? He awakens early one morning with the realization that he has forgotten to take out his garbage, so he trudges outside to take care of the task only to discover the body of someone he doesn't particularly like on his front sidewalk. Missing the thrill of the chase, and wanting to discover killed the man, Charlie embarks on his own investigation, while trying to avoid alienating the local police force any further. I found the action a bit slow at the beginning and into the middle of the story, but the last third of the book was fast-paced and well-plotted..Humorous touches are sprinkled throughout, and contribute to the overall arc of the story. Because of the horse racing connection, fans of Dick Francis may find this especially enjoyable.

First time reading a book from the Charlie Bradshaw mysteries, not gonna lie probably wouldn't had picked this up when I saw it for sale but glad I got to read outside of my usual go to's. It did start a little slow for me but it picked up and kept me intrigued in who the killer was. I think I would had enjoyed this more if I had read the previous books.

This is a mystery featuring Charlie Bradshaw, an ex-private investigator who is trying to get adjusted to the slower pace of civilian life. This proves difficult when a man named Mickey is found dead in his driveway. Charlie eventually becomes more involved as time goes on and gradually he finds himself in the middle of the investigation. i found this to be cute. The mystery was definitely spot-on and well done. I liked the bits of humor thrown in. The characters were memorable as well. Some parts in the beginning/middle moved rather slow but that was the only minor drawback for me. Otherwise, I enjoyed this and would read books from this author again!

I love that Charlie is such a normal guy. I will definitely have to look up the other books by Stephen Dobyns. Such a great, funny, thriller! Charlie, Victor, and the cast of misfits were very entertaining. I love the way Charlie seemed to bumble into the connections in the case since he is portrayed as a normal, run of the mill person. Enjoyable read!

This was the 1st time I'd read this author, & I found it to be a fun, pleasant discovery! The main character is kind of an 'every man' sort of guy, maybe an 'average joe' sort. He's kind of a funny guy, offering a humorous take/view on events/happenings. His life & situations might be almost fairly easy to the average person/reader to be able to relate to (altho there are other opportunities not easy to relate to!) But it's certainly entertaining! It is the latest in a series, but not having read the prior books didn't take away from reading this book. But I also did so enjoy the book & characters, that I will look up his earlier books & catch up on the previous happenings! Nothing in here to warn anyone against: no bad sex or bad language...just good entertainment, & a 'who done it?' I did win this ARC in a Penguin First To Read Giveaway program....only in return for my own independent fair & honest review.

A funny, eerie, fast paced thriller. The plot starts with the murder of Mickey Martin. The protagonist Charlie Bradshaw lands in trouble when Mickey Martin is murdered on his courtyard. As an yesteryear Private Investigative, he is unable to sit back and let the police find the culprit. His intrigue peaks when he gets to know that Mickey had been inquiring about his haven. Further investigation lands Charlie in trouble and further he learns that he is also one among the targets. The story reaches an interesting twist. The style of narration is easy going unlike the other thrillers. Charlie's character has a tinge of humour

This is the first book by this author. Charlie is an older man without his chosen career as a way to define himself. This man uses only his reasoning to discover the murderer.

While I likeed Saratoga Payback well enough, it started a little too slowly for me. This is the first Charlie Bradshaw mystery that I've read. The mystery itself has sufficient twists and turns to be enjoyable but I think there is a little too much emphasis on the problems associated with his age. An entertaining read I will definitely try another of Stephen Dobyn's novels.

Charlie Bradshaw wakes suddenly in the middle of the night-he forgot to take out the garbage. Instead of running after the truck in the morning, he decides to take care of it. While bringing the trash to the curb, Charlie finds unlikable local, Mickey Martin, dead on the sidewalk in front of his house. So starts Saratoga Payback, the 11th installment of the Charlie Bradshaw Mysteries. Bradshaw, a retired P.I., (and general thorn in the side of local police) promises not to interfere with police business, but someone was murdered in front of his house and he wants to know why. Charlie tries to stay out of it, but when his horse owner friends are threatened and other people turn up dead, it's difficult for Charlie to NOT investigate. Then he finds out the killer has targeted him, so Charlie takes action. Although part of a series, this book can stand alone. Charlie Bradshaw is stubborn, funny, bored and good at what he does. He struggles to live a normal, non-investigative life, but doesn't last long doing chores around the house. His friend Vic provides humor, as do the interactions between Charlie and the local police. The book kept me hooked. Not only did I want to keep reading to find out who the killer was, but also to see if Charlie would get arrested for interfering in police business. This was my first Charlie Bradshaw book, and I liked it. I'll have to go back and start from the beginning to catch up on all of his cases.

A First to Read book, This is the first Charlie Bradshaw book I have read. It definitely got better as the story progressed. You don't often read of detectives in their 60's and the author spent much time describing his aches and pains and his lack of technical expertise. In some ways he seemed older than his years. Good ending, Glad I read it. Would probably give it three out of five stars.for pace and my interest level.

I enjoyed Saratoga Payback overall. It dragged in the beginning, but then picked up and the story and characters developed -- many with big personalities. The details that Detective Charlie had to wade through were intriguing and worth the unraveling. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that I would have gotten more out of this book had I read a previous book in, or at least had more familiarity with, the Charlie Bradshaw series. With that said, I may go back and read previous installments and will definitely read any future tomes. Good, solid read, and I appreciate and look forward to Stephen Dobyn's humor and Charlie's next adventure.

A Penguin First to Read ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review. Charlie Bradshaw has had his Private Investigators license revoked. Old habits die hard though. Especially when a dead body shows up at the end of Charlie’s sidewalk. Risking jail time if he is caught investigating, Charlie toes the line on being a private citizen asking questions and former private eye getting his nose in the middle of a killer problem. This is the latest installment in the Charlie Bradshaw series. It can be read as a standalone but I felt like I was missing a lot of potential character development. On top of the dead bodies there are stolen and dead horses. In a small town with big personalities there is a lot of rough and murky water that Charlie has to wade through to get to the truth of the matter in both situations. This is my first book by author Stephen Dobyns and I found his writing voice humorous.

My rating for this book would be 3 stars. I had never read a Stephen Dobyn's book and I think I would have enjoyed this book better if I had read previous books in this series first. I didn't really care about the characters, I found most of them dull and unidimensional, and Charlie Bradshaw just got on my nerves most of the time. It was awfully slow at the beginning, and I am glad that the pace improved a bit by the last quarter of the book. Some of the events in the story are not well explained, and there are plot holes. I don't think I will read more books by this author.

I think, to properly enjoy this book, you should already have some familiarity with the Charlie Bradshaw series. I have not read any of the previous books, and while I was not lost exactly I am sure I was missing a great deal. The plot was interesting enough but somehow I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. I may try again with this author but it's not a priority.

This is my first book from author Stephen Dobyns. The beginning started off a little slow for my taste but later on in the chapters it compensates. The plotline and characters were fantastic. Look forward to reading more books by this author.

This was the first time I have read a Stephen Dobyns's book. For me, I thought it moved a little slow and had too much inner dialogue. I wasn't bad, just wasn't compelling enough to keep me turning the page. Probably would not read this author again.

This was the first time I read one of Stephen Dobyn's Charlie Bradshaw Mysteries, and I truly enjoyed it. Charlie Bradshaw is a senior citizen, and a retired private detective who is not in good graces with the local police department. He is recently married to Janey and has a bright step-daughter Emma. Charlie finds himself occupied with the tasks of a retired homeowner although he keeps his old PI office for folks to come visit. Dobyn makes his characters likeable and relatable to those you might find in a small town. He unfolds his mystery with the reader getting to know Charlie, his family, friends, and acquaintances. When an acquaintance and town pest ends up dead on Charlie's sidewalk, he is curious and begins to employ his former skills as a PI despite warnings from the police not to interfere. You'll have to read what happens next so the remainder of the plot remains a mystery. I enjoyed Dobyn's analogies, entertaining situations, and events that lead to the story's resolution. I love to read serials that connect you to memorable characters, and look forward to reading the books in this series from the beginning.

This is the second book by Stephen Dobyns that I have read, the other one being the first book in the series about (semi-)retired Private Investigator Charlie Bradshaw, "Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?". Dobyns' humor is still wonderfully understated and the cast of characters adds to the entertainment in this brilliantly different take on the mystery genre. This time, the lame cover art from the "Fat Bob" book (a Beagle with a lit cigarette in its mouth) has been replaced by numerous decapitated horse heads, which is just a tad bit better. Although the plot was a little more predictable this time, I thoroughly enjoyed another round with Charlie Bradshaw and his friends, and if you like mysteries and laughing while reading.

I'd never picked up a book by Stephen Dobyns before, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. At least once a chapter, I accosted my wyfe with "Let me just read you this line." Stephen Dobyns created an amusing and enjoyable romp with Saratoga Payback. Even the dead horses couldn't keep me at bay - and I'm pretty much a wimp about things like that. By the end of the book, I could see the characters clearly and wanted to spend more time with them. I'd never read any of the books in this series and I wouldn't have guessed I'd come into the middle of an ongoing saga. Perhaps readers familiar with the series would find it a bit repetitive, but for me the book stands on its own - no background required. Thrilling and humorous, Saratoga Payback takes you on a journey as accessible as it is outlandish. I quite enjoyed myself.

This is the first I've ever read of Dobyns and first foray into the capers of Charlie Bradshaw. It should be noted that I am a detective fiction obsessive, so from the get go this book was for me. There are a lot of characters for you to account for, but they are each fleshed out and important to remember. For fans of the greats like Chandler and Hammett, or any series of books with a snarky PI character. Great pace and premise. This book is an adventurous read.


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